Good tools can make the difference between an afternoon of enjoyable and efficient gardening and hours of frustrating, exhausting labor! Gardening, like most anything, is an industry full of new gizmos and gadgets that appear every year along with over-the-top promises. Unfortunately, most of these too-good-to-be-true gadgets end up collecting dust in the shed.
Gardening requires work, and you’ll need a few tools to get it done. Investing in good-quality garden tools that will last a long time will give you far better results than most of the trinkets you see in the infomercials. Chances are, you’ll have a much easier experience with a collection of quality gardening staples than you would with a garage full of kooky doo-dads from the Home Shopping Network.
Here are the most essential tools for Quad Cities gardeners that everyone needs to have in their arsenal.
1. Pruning Clippers. Kitchen scissors are great, but they aren’t meant to handle thick woody stems. A good sharp pair of pruning clippers is invaluable. Make a habit of cleaning your clippers regularly to help them last as long as possible. If you’re anything like most gardeners and you tend to set a pair down and forget where they are, it’s not a bad idea to have a couple of pairs of clippers. When you try them out in the store, choose a pair that fits your hand and feels comfortable to handle.
2. Pruning Shears. You may not use pruning shears as often as clippers, but they’re still important—especially if you have hedges! Electric hedge pruners are great, but you’ll likely still need the manual ones for touch-ups here and there. They also make short work of chopping up foliage into nice small chunks for the composter. Similar to pruners, we recommend that you try them out in the store. Some shears can be really heavy, so keep that in mind when trying them out. If you have some overhead pruning to do on your property, you’ll want to pick a lighter pair.
3. Weeder. Also called dandelion weeders, these are handy for tons of different kinds of weeds, not just dandelions. They usually have a sharp prong at the end and are designed to dig out deep taproots. Even if it’s not a taproot, some plants have roots that go very deep, and one of these will help you get those out without disturbing neighboring plants too much. Make sure you choose a sturdy one, as once they’re deep in the soil, there’s a lot of pressure that can cause weaker models to bend and break.
4. Gardening Shovel. Most gardening shovels are rounded with a pointed tip and a long handle. Shovels are useful for so many things—from turning the soil, to moving compost, to digging holes for planting. Again, try a few in-store to see what you like. Ideally, when you hold the shovel on the ground next to you, the top of the handle should be at approximately your lower-mid chest area. Choose a sturdy shovel that isn’t too heavy. Most shoveling jobs in the garden take a while, so look for one that won’t exhaust you after you’ve been digging for an hour.
5. Hand Spade or Trowel. Trowels are essential for planting all those gorgeous annuals come spring. See how they feel in your hand, and make sure to choose one with very strong construction. Often the soil we’re digging into in the spring is quite hard, and lower-quality trowels are likely to bend out of shape very quickly. Alternatively, you can also get small spades with a longer handle. They look like a standard gardening shovel, scaled-down. These can be handy for getting some extra leverage, or digging holes for larger plants.
6. Rakes. If you’ve got deciduous trees in your yard, or your neighbor’s yard, or you don’t have a bag for the lawnmower, you’ll need a leaf rake. A leaf rake can also be handy for picking up piles of pruned branches and greenery. It’s a smart call to have a stiffer garden or soil rake as well. These are useful for spreading soil, compost, or mulch and for raking up larger branches and clippings from yard cleanup sessions.
7. Pruning Saw. Pruning is not as complicated as many people think. Generally, if you take out dead, dying, or diseased branches, you’ll be on top of it. A short-handled pruning saw makes this a lot easier. They look pretty aggressive, but that double row of teeth makes short work of cutting branches up to 2″ in diameter.
8. Garden Hoe. A hoe has many uses in gardening, from dealing with surface weeds, to making neat furrows for seeding, to breaking up clods of earth. Similar to the garden shovel, the top of the handle should be lower-mid chest height. Choose a hoe with a solid, sturdy blade. Due to the pressure of breaking up hard earth, lower quality models are likely to break with regular use. When you’re looking at the different types, make sure to check out loop hoes. These are super handy for dealing with all the little weeds that seem to pop up overnight in between garden rows.
9. Kneeling Bench. Your knees will thank you a few years down the road. The handles on kneeling benches give you something to stabilize with when standing up, and if you flip them over, you’ve got a nice spot to sit and rest for a minute or two. Trust us; your knees don’t love being on the hard ground, so do yourself a favor and make your gardening time a little more comfortable.
If you’re gearing up for the 2020 Quad Cities gardening season, head down to Meyer Garden Center. We’ve got an excellent variety of the most essential gardening tools you need to keep your yard in tip-top shape this year. We even have a select few of those high-tech new gadgets if you want to give those a try!